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Samma No Aji

SAMMA NO AJI



(An Autumn Afternoon)


Japan, 1962


Director: Yasujiro Ozu

Production: Shochiku Co.; Agfacolor, 35mm; running time: 113 minutes. Released November 1962, Japan.


Producer: Shizuo Yamanouchi; screenplay: Yasujiro Ozu and Kogo Noda; photography: Yushun (or, Yuharu) Atsuta; editor: Yoshiyasu Manamura; sound: Yoshisaburo Senoo; art director: Tatsuo Hamada; music: Takanobu Saito.

Cast: Chisu Ryu (Shuhei Hirayama); Shima Iwashita (Michiko Hirayama); Shin-ichiro Mikami (Kazuo Hirayama); Keiji Sada (Koichi Hirayama); Mariko Okada (Akiko Hirayama); Nobuo Nakamura (Shuzo Kawai); Kuniko Miyake (Nobuko Kawai); Ryuji Kita (Susumu Horie); Eijiro Tono (Sakuma); Teruo Yoshida (Miura).


Publications


Books:

Richie, Donald, Japanese Cinema: Film Style and National Character, New York, 1971.

Sato, Tadao, Ozu Yasujiro no Geijutsu (The Art of Yasujiro Ozu), Tokyo, 1971.

Satomi, Jun, and others, Ozu Yasujiro—Hito to Shigoto (Yasujiro Ozu—The Man and His Work), Tokyo, 1972.

Schrader, Paul, Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer, Berkeley, 1972.

Richie, Donald, Ozu, Berkeley, 1974.

Schrader, Leonard, and Haruji Nakumara, editors, Masters of Japanese Film, Tokyo, 1975.

Bock, Audie, Japanese Film Directors, New York, 1978; revised edition, Tokyo, 1985.

Burch, Noël, To the Distant Observer, Berkeley, 1979.

Tessier, Max, editor, Le Cinéma japonais au prèsent: 1959–1979, Paris, 1980.

Sato, Tadao, Currents in Japanese Cinema, Tokyo, 1982.

Bordwell, David, Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema, Princeton, 1988.


Articles:

Richie, Donald, "The Face of '63—Japan," in Films and Filming (London), July 1963.

Milne, Tom, "Flavour of Green Tea over Rice," in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1963.

Richie, Donald, "Yasujiro Ozu: Syntax of His Films," in FilmQuarterly (Berkeley), Winter 1963–64.

"Ozu Issue" of Kinema Jumpo (Tokyo), February 1964.

Ryu, Chisu, "Yasujiro Ozu," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1964.

Iwasaki, Akira, "Ozu," in Film (London), Summer 1965.

Tung, in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Winter 1965–66.

Haruji, and Leonard Schrader, "Ozu Spectrum," in Cinema (Beverly Hills), no. 1, 1970.

Farber, Manny, "Ozu," in Artforum (New York), June 1970.

Phillipe, Jean-Claude, "Yasujiro Ozu," in Dossiers du cinéma:Cinéastes, no. 1, Paris, 1971.

Rosenbaum, Jonathan, "Ozu," in Film Comment (New York), Summer 1972.

Zeman, Marvin, "The Zen Artistry of Yasujiro Ozu," in FilmJournal (New York), Fall-Winter 1972.

Tessier, Max, in Anthologie du Cinema 7, Paris, 1973.

Thompson, Kristin, and David Bordwell, "Space and Narrative in the Films of Ozu," in Screen (London), Summer 1976.

Bezombes, R., in Cinématographe (Paris), November 1978.

Magny, Joel, in Cinéma (Paris), December 1978.

Tessier, Max, in Ecran (Paris), December 1978.

Delmas, J., in Jeune Cinéma (Paris), December-January 1979.

Colpart, G., in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), series 23, 1979.

Biette, J. C., in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), January 1979.

Masson, A., in Positif (Paris), January 1979.

Richie, Donald, "Ozu," in Cinema: A Critical Dictionary, edited by Richard Roud, London, 1980.

Piccardi, A., "La tarda primavera di Yasujiro Ozu," in Cineforum (Bergamo), July-August 1982.

Geist, Kathe, "Yasujiro Ozu: Notes on a Retrospective," in FilmQuarterly (Berkeley), Fall 1983.

Backer, F., and others, "Ozu: Meester in de beperking," in Skrien (Amsterdam), Winter 1983–84.

Berta, R., "A la recherche du regard," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), December 1985.

Tomczak, R., "Samma No Aji," in Filmfaust, vol. 12, no. 64, February-March 1988.

Ortiz, A., "El sabor de pescado de otono," in Nosferatu (San Sebastian, Spain), no. 25/26, December 1997.


* * *

The title of Yasujiro Ozu's last film, Samma no aji (An Autumn Afternoon), literally "taste of autumn swordfish," symbolizes the ordinary in life, and represents another contemplative study of the serenity of Japanese middle-class family life.

Ozu's characteristic stylistic techniques are evident here. The film begins with a series of shots of chimneys from different angles, and proceeds to the corridor of an office building preparing our introduction to a company executive, Mr. Hirayama—an editing pattern common in Ozu's work. Another characteristic Ozu device is the use of a number of shots of restaurant and bar signs appearing for several seconds before the story inside the restaurant develops. We soon lose track of how often we witness the character enjoying a conversation over food and drink. All of these scenes are very deliberately composed, including the placement of food, dishes and beer bottles. The movements of the characters seem carefully choreographed throughout these scenes. We are shown in detail a high-school reunion, casual gossip between intimate friends, and discussions of household topics among couples and family members.

The film's central plot is the arrangement of the marriage of Hirayama's daughter, Michiko, further developed by other marriage-related subplots. For example, Hirayama's old high school teacher and his old maid daughter make Hirayama realize his duty to arrange Michiko's marriage despite his own loneliness which will surely continue. We also see Michiko's older brother's trifling marriage problems; Michiko's unsuccessful love for her brother's friend; Hirayama's friend's happy remarriage to a younger wife; Hirayama's secretary's marriage; and Hirayama's encounter with a barmaid who reminds him of his deceased wife.

Subplots such as these are developed in lengthy, carefully edited conversation scenes. Ozu frequently uses frontal, close-up shot-reverse shots of characters' faces (occasionally including unmatching eyelines). Indeed, the film's narrative is developed more in these conversations and less by direct actions. Each dialogue is extremely concise, often omitting subjects and objects in the sentences, making it impossible to translate directly in the English subtitles.

Ozu is obsessed with showing the empty space after any action takes place. After Michiko leaves her house on the wedding day, a series of shots showing her empty room during the day and at night are used to accentuate the emptiness after her departure. Particularly, the close-up shots of the big mirror and the vacated stool force us to realize that she, sitting there in her wedding gown just moments before, is now gone. The pathos is suggested by the systematic arrangement of shots of inanimate objects.

Through the depiction of the non-dramatic atmosphere of peaceful human relationships between good-willed people, the film conveys the feeling of the quiet realization of the loneliness in life. It is deftly symbolized by the sequences at the bar where Hirayama drinks, listening nostalgically to the Japanese Navy march and then, at home, drinks water silently in the kitchen at the end of the corridor.

The audience and critics appreciated the distinctive loneliness of Ozu's world all the more for the light and even humorous nature of many of An Autumn Afternoon's individual scenes.

—Kyoko Hirano

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